ARCHENEMY is hard to classify. It’s partially a superhero tale. The main character afterall, Max (played by Joe Manganiello), certainly thinks he’s one. Buy him a few drinks at the local bar and he’ll spout off tales of space cities, giant robots, and evil scientists. He’ll also tell you how he was thrown from that dimension, where he was practically a god, into ours where he is now just a powerless, broken-down wino.
ARCHENEMY is also a gritty drama, at least that’s how it feels for Hamster (Skylan Brooks) and his sister, Melissa (Jessica Allain), two young adults trying to survive in a world on their own. Hamster dreams of being a journalist and Melissa- she’s only concerned with keeping food on their table, even if it means working for the local drug kingpin (Glenn Howerton). When Hamster stumbles across Max in an alley, he sees a chance at the kind of story that could jumpstart his writing career. Max is up for it, as long as Hamster gets him a few beers and a bit of food.
ARCHENEMY could even be called an action film as before long, Melissa has run afoul of her criminal bosses and Max has no choice but to try and be the hero his stories paint him as to save her and Hamster, except this time guns and body armor are the closest things he has to a cape and superpowers.
However you classify ARCHENEMY, it owes a great deal to the comic book deconstructions of the mid-1980s. Classic titles like THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, WATCHMEN, and MIRACLE MAN were obvious influences for writer/director Adam Egypt Mortimer. The film takes apart the mythos of the superhero much like those seminal comics book stories and examines what it means to be a hero. It’s a gritty, dark film but where it differs from those comics that inspired it is that underneath all the grit and the “grimdark” posturing there is a weird, psychedelic, and clearly romantic beating heart that drives everything forward in a strangely hopeful way. It is both a deconstruction and a loving homage.
For anyone who likes edgier superhero stories, street-level crime films, or off-kilter cinema- ARCHENEMY is one to seek out.
RLJE FILMS and SHUDDER are releasing ARCHENEMY on Blu-Ray today, February 16. I recently had a chance to check out the disc ahead of its release and found it to be a solid presentation of the film. The video transfer is a standard 1080p AVC encode that holds up to the wild visual shifts of the film well- from the outlandish colors that appear during Max’s stories to the naturalistic flesh tones and grit of the scenes set in the “real world”, the film looks good despite some slightly muddled detail in a couple of the films most dimly lit scenes.
The DTS-HD 5.1 audio is seemingly perfect with good surround sound elements, clear dialogue that never gets overwhelmed in the center channel, and enough bombast in the bass to give your sub-woofer a nice workout during the more chaotic scenes.
There isn’t much in the way of special features. The lone inclusion is a sub-10 minute EPK-style featurette where the cast and crew talk about the film. It is informative and interesting for what it is but I can’t help but want more. I suppose, in this age of streaming, getting the film on a high-definition disc at all is a triumph. The A/V presentation is strong and the film itself is a winner. So, the Blu-Ray is an easy recommendation.